Something that struck me reading this, which I’m sure others have noted before, is that people who “trust the science” on sex education know that abstinence-only doesn’t work. Many teens will have sex even if you tell them not to, and that what you *can* do is encourage and provide education about safe sex practices while reinforcing that the safest practice is abstinence.

In my experience, well-educated liberals tend to view abstinence-only-in-sex-education advocates as being willfully blind to how humans behave in the real world, and as valuing idealogical purity over achieving the best outcomes.

The analogies write themselves.

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I wore masks back in Feb of 2020 because it was obvious that CDC and “experts” were lying or dumb.

I stopped wearing masks as soon as I was fully vaccinated back in March, because it was obvious that science is awesome and experts were lying it dumb about the need to continue.

Also… Florida did better than California because they didn’t keep people inside as much.

California probably killed a non-zero number of people by closing beaches and parks. (Then again, so did every place that restricted people from the outdoors) resulting in people spending more time inside.

I’d like to see more analysis on why people have been so resistive to Covid restrictions and advice. I have a theory.

600K dead. 339M population. Covid killed 0.2% of population. That’s 1 out of every 500 people. Sounds bad. Except that number wasn’t distributed randomly. It was overwhelmingly senior citizens.

One of the artifacts of American culture of the nuclear family vs extended family living arrangements is the elderly are a much smaller percentage of any given person’s acquaintances. We know our grandparents, but after that… most of our acquaintances are people within the same broad age range of us, or younger. We are more likely to know our kids friend than our grandparents friends.

Since I travel for work. Multiple job sites a month. Always with different people, I have started asking people if they know anyone who has died from Covid. I ask strangers on planes. Coworkers. Etc…. And by know, I mean personally. Not friend of friend.

I’ve asked maybe 100-200 people. Only two people have said yes. One was their father in Venezuela. The other was their Grandmother in the US.

I don’t even know anyone who has been in the hospital. I know of people, but don’t know them in any recurring way.

Now, yes… a lot of people have died. I have taken the pandemic seriously from the beginning (I’m naturally risk adverse), but I get why there is a lot of skepticism about the seriousness of Covid.

The media constantly bombarded us with numbers, but there was very very few “faces”. I remember a half dozen cases where there was a young nurse, or a 40-year old dad, but considering there was 600K deaths, the media did a very poor job of putting a human face on. And the reason is simple… the vast majority of deaths were elderly or medically fragile, likely to be obese. People who just don’t garner the same sort of “clicks” as a young nurse.

The simple fact is that the actual disease of Covid didn’t have as much of impact on people’s personal lives as the restrictions did.

When you have this imbalance from daily lives experience and media/experts narrative, it is no surprise that people become skeptical.

I’m not sure how we could of done better as a country. Truthfully given the learning curve and the awesomeness of developing effective vaccines, and having Trump in office, I think on the whole we did pretty good. Shit would of been a lot worse even a decade ago.

Anyway… that’s my dumb take.

Typing on my phone. Forgive any grammatical errors. On my way to Pittsburg for a week and a half. Time to recertify in my job.

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Something about covid just seems to have broken the brains of a lot of blue state liberals. How do you ever convince yourself it would be a good idea for the government to mislead the public about the effectiveness of public health interventions in order to put pressure on recalcitrant governors?

Public health people should tell the truth about public health matters. Governors who ignore or subvert guidance should be judged by their electorates. Why does this even need spelling out?

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I'm so sick of the people who think it's the government's job to play jedi mind tricks to manipulate the population into doing things. It's the government's job to provide information and reasonable guidance informed by that information.

So instead of saying, "Masks only work for doctors; regular schmucks like you can't possible use them correctly," they should have said, "Masks are useful, but doctors and first responders need them more than you do, so please don't horde them." Instead of saying "COVID is a serious risk for your average 20-year-old, so get vaccinated to save yourself", say "The risk of COVID to your average 20-year-old isn't very big, but please take one for the team and get vaccinated to help people at higher risk than you."

The people who advocate for these jedi mind tricks tend to also be the people who wonder why the people who don't fall for these jedi mind tricks have such low faith in government. Just treat people like adults. If you want to change people's mind, hire Frank Luntz to manipulate people like adults https://debeaumont.org/news/2021/focus-group-vaccines-republicans/ (Not a sentence I expected to type.)

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Obviously I think this whole thing was glorious, but I think you (and just about everyone) is being too credulous with the public health people saying “oh of course we didn’t think masks were useless, haha we knew the whole time, we were just trying to manipulate people”. As Zeynep Tufekci has written (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/07/opinion/coronavirus-airborne-transmission.html), it wasn’t obvious to the “experts” that the virus was airborne for quite a while, and they were also pushing ridiculous hand-washing techniques at least through June.

Isn’t it at least as likely that they had no idea that masks were useful, that they were relying on (completely irrelevant) studies showing improper mask use is worse than no mask use with surface-transmissible viruses, and that they’re only coming up with this “we wanted to protect our Healthcare Heroes (tm)” rationale after the fact?

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Great article. One point that Matt did raise, but that I think cannot be over stressed is just how bad of an idea it is for public health officials to shade the truth in order to achieve some desired objective. The inaccurate statements on the lack of benefits of masking were incredibly damaging; they both harmed later efforts to encourage masking, and severely undermined confidence in public health officials. I would say the contorted answers to whether the George Floyd protests were a public health threat exacerbated things further.

This selective truth telling is unfortunately a well ingrained habit in the public health community. I remember a particularly clear example from Sweden in the early 1990s, when the fear of HIV was abating among the broad public. It became to be seen, correctly, as something that was just not much of a risk unless if you were gay or injecting drugs. The equivalent of the CDC in Sweden did not like this at all, and attempted to aggressively send a message that there was a dramatic rise in HIV infections from heterosexual sex, and that the utmost vigilance was called for. This was true in a technical sense, but extremely misleading. First, the numbers were tiny, with a rise from lower two digits to just over 100, as I recall. Second, almost all of the recorded cases involved either Swedish sex tourists contracting HIV in Asia, or immigrants from Africa who had contracted it before migrating to Sweden. I can only imagine that public health officials felt they did a good thing because they encouraged safe sex, and were not lying in a strict technical sense. But my take away was that I irrevocably lost trust in them. After that point, I have never taken a statement by a public health expert at face value.

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Relative to California, Florida had a lower death rate from COVID for both the under-65 and the over-65 age cohorts. The age distribution between the states explains the difference in the aggregate result. Regardless, both states were about average. But because the press can't stand Ron DeSantis, the coverage has been irrationally negative.

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I noted at the time of Walensky's no masks for the vaccinated announcement how disheartening it was to see so many public health media types urging the CDC to prevaricate on this. Matt is right that staying in their actual lane of expertise is the best way for experts to serve the public, but it is fundamentally contrary to human nature. People like to opine, as we can all personally attest.

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Adjusting for age, Florida did better than California. Yes, Florida had 8% more deaths per capita than California, but it has 42% more seniors per capita (20% versus 14% of the population). COVID was not an equal opportunity killer, 79% of deaths were among seniors. That means, other things constant, Florida’s death rate would have been 23% or 24% higher than California’s.

The difference likely flows from California real estate being too expensive, which means more multigenerational households. Workers who could not afford to quarantine were especially likely to live with parents or grandparents. In other words, the zoning and housing scarcity that MY hates more than nullified the effects of months of coercive distancing.

The more intriguing question is why Florida did better than Texas and the answer is likely Florida did a better job of protecting nursing homes, where targeted interventions can save lots of lives.

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Among people who say "a return to normalcy," how many are really calling for a return to normal and how many are making an esoteric joke about Warren G. Harding?

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"The people who feel so confident that they could have threaded a perfect bank-shot of mask/vaccine rhetoric to keep the mandates in place longer if they were in Walensky’s shoes aren’t seeing the whole field."

That's not so much a mixed metaphor as it is the product of tossing sewing, billiards, ladies' footwear, and football into a Cuisinart and hitting puree.

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I really appreciated this piece.

The other day a man drove past me on a dirt bike, popping a wheelie down a residential street at dusk, helmetless - but wearing a surgical mask, which he carefully adjusted with one hand after landing his front wheel on the road.

It was funny, but reminded me yet again that normal people just plain suck at any sort of risk assessment. If you are reading through multiple articles to try to figure out how to model the relative risk of various behaviors so you can understand the tradeoffs, then you are a weirdo. As am I.

It's frustrating watching the public health establishment implicitly accept that people suck at this to some degree, but then conclude that that's why they need to manipulate everyone - because they just won't "get it" otherwise. The opposite conclusion is more reasonable: people suck at this, so we should try to make all of our communications simple, clear, fact based, and as far as possible, intuitive. ("People breath the virus out, so if you're gonna spend time inside, open a couple windows" is not something you need a complicated risk assessment to understand) The CDC's communication is far from perfect now, but it's vastly improved since the Trump administration ended.

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>>>And note that Abbott, like most Republican governors, has been promoting vaccination.<<<

When he's not actively interfering with the efforts of the private sector to require vaccinations, sure!


(Public health is important, except when it conflicts with the need to court your party's wingnut base).

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I have noticed that a lot of people I know are very upset about the CDC rolling back mask requirements and the reason is usually that it freaks them out because it seems unsafe to them. And they’re the type who’ve spent the last year saying the believe in a science. They also spent early 2021 consuming news from sources that insisted we had no idea if the vaccines prevented infections so they also had to get used to the idea that being vaccinated means you almost certainly can’t infect others.

Some of that could have been mitigated if the CDC had done a better job of communicating risk throughout the pandemic.

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This is all well and good, but seriously what's up with those differences in motor vehicle fatality rates? This table has both the deaths per 100,000 residents, but also per 100 million vehicle miles traveled: https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/state-by-state

By the latter, South Carolina does the worst followed by Mississippi and then New Mexico, but there are a lot clustered around there at 1.4 or 1.5. There's some really good charts here on seatbelt use, alcohol involvement, and types of crashes.

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Can we talk about our current airline/airport regulations? I was on a flight a couple of weeks ago which started out with very stern PA messages about mask wearing. And then I spent the rest of the flight with my mask mostly down because the very attentive flight attendant kept bringing me drinks and snacks. For the record I’m fully vaccinated so I’m confident I didn’t put anyone in danger, but I don’t think this is helping our society regain trust in public health messaging.

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